City council's new enviro bill forgets about condos, co-ops


Proposed Intro No. 1253-C is a 21-page tome that presents a vast and comprehensive assault on unnecessary pollutants designed to make New York City’s air among the world’s cleanest. So, we underscore again there is no argument about the intent of the legislation.

What is important for council members to recognize, though — and what is entirely missing from the proposed bill — is that co-operative and condominium apartments exist in increasingly large numbers, particularly in areas like Riverdale, Fieldston, Spuyten Duyvil, Kingsbridge, Marble Hill, and other parts of the Bronx, as well as throughout other areas of New York City. The residents in those apartments need to be specifically regarded in issues concerning building maintenance.

Current provisions in the proposed law will allow landlords of buildings who can demonstrate that compliance with the law would “prevent the owner of a building from earning a reasonable financial return” may have any penalties associated with the law adjusted.

There is no such language addressing the financial needs of any co-op or condo. There should be.

In the proposed bill, buildings of less than 25,000 square feet and buildings three stories or less in height, would be exempted. This would obviously place an inequitable responsibility and unfair burden for cleaning our environment on co-op and condo residents in larger buildings, like nearly all of the buildings in ZIP codes 10463 and 10471.

Ironically, this provision would seem to counter the overarching intent of the bill by suggesting that those who live in smaller buildings need not reap the benefits of improved energy conservation and should be allowed to breathe air that is less pure. Those buildings and the residents who reside in them deserve to benefit from energy upgrades and decreased operating costs, just like those who live in larger buildings.

Along with this exclusion is another curious caveat in the proposed bill that exempts landlords of buildings with at least one rent-regulated apartment in a building from compliance. Both of these loopholes to accommodate landlords must be closed if the bill will fairly produce the intended citywide greenhouse reduction goals.

The current bill mandates a wide breadth of improvements that must be completed before December 2024, specifically including repair of all heating systems; installing individual temperature controls on all radiators; insulating all heat and hot water pipes; installing master venting at the ends of mains, large horizontal pipes, the tops of risers and vertical pipes branching off the mains; upgrading lighting to comply with new standards; weatherizing windows and ductwork; and installing radiant barriers behind radiators, just to name a few.

All of these improvements are commendable and worthy of attention. Many of our local buildings have already been particularly diligent in upgrading their systems, and the burden of new renovations and repairs may be limited in those cases.

On the other hand, there are many buildings that will need to scramble to plan, raise required funds (through maintenance increases or assessments), locate and negotiate with a qualified contractor, and ensure that work is completed by the deadline. With the vast number of buildings that need to comply with the proposed local law, finding contractors who can complete the job may be as difficult as finding the money to do the job.

The drop-dead date for total compliance needs to be re-examined in terms of the real-world situation that exists in finding qualified contractors, compelling required construction, and raising required funding.

If the stated intentions of this bill are as laudable as they appear — and we have no reason to doubt them — the city needs to provide substantial support in its effort.

The city needs to identify a sufficiently large cadre of what it calls “registered design professionals.” Their expertise must be made available at the building level to directly review the situation in each building, advise co-op and condo boards, and their buildings managers — at no cost to residents.

Since the potential cost of compliance may be exorbitant, the city — in cooperation with state and perhaps local utilities — need to develop a low-cost (no-cost?) means of financing all required upgrades and/or significant tax advantages or rebates for costs specifically related to compliance. Another unfunded mandate poses particular hardship on individual co-op shareholders and condo owners.

Finally, the proposed legislation would establish an advisory board. In its current description, this board would specifically exclude representation from the co-op/condo community, a vast population that simply must be recognized and fairly represented on that board.

Once these issues and the recommendations made above are successfully addressed and remediated by the city council — before the passage of the bill — we look forward to joining all New Yorkers in the enjoyment of our enhanced environment.

The author is president of the Association of Riverdale Co-operatives and Condominiums.

Stephen J. Budihas,